Meet someone in real life that I've only met on the internet.
There's a website I frequent called "Reddit" which is a site that lets you subscribe to different "sub reddits" which will then propagate your home page with news stories, videos, pictures, etc. based on your interest. Some of the things I subscribe to are Apple, Atheism, World News, Jokes, Pics so all day long I've got a constant stream of time-wasting material.
It occurred to me a few days ago that there's probably a Japan sub reddit, and sure enough, there was. One of the first posts I found was titled "Any Redditos around Tokyo Oct 30-Nov 1 for a hangout?"
I'm a Redditor!
I'm around Tokyo Oct 30-Nov 1!
I have no hangups or fears about meeting a complete stranger from the internet with no profile, photos or searchable history to settle any doubts I may have that they're a forty year old pervert!
So I messaged the 20 year old from England (the only two pieces of information contained in the post) and was delighted to find that she thought getting together at Shinjuku Gyoen National Park was a good idea. I guess a big, public place with lots of people made sense, I just wanted to check off a goal!
I arrived and found Mia with her blue umbrella and we immediately started walking and talking as if we hadn't just met for the first time after only 2 brief emails and then found each other without the use of cell phones in the middle of a giant park in one of the world's largest cities halfway across the globe from where either of us are from. If that doesn't represent the power of the internet and the craftiness of young people today then I don't know what does.
When I was getting off at Shinjuku station, it occurred to me that I should perhaps be nervous. What if she's boring? What if the conversation is stale? What are we going to talk about? These were all questions that only entered my head in the form of "should I be asking those questions?"
Luckily, I had planned to meet with a friend (someone else I had only met via Facebook, but at least had a number of mutual friends with) a few hours after the park, so I had an out assuming things got weird.
But they didn't and Mia turned out to be a lovely and sharp Brit. She's at Uni at Manchester and studies politics. She was in Japan with her father, who was on business, and clearly was getting tired of walking around alone, so she turned to the power of Reddit and was delighted to meet an upbeat American with plenty of stories and questions.
The scenery wasn't bad either:
It should be noted that this post will serve as my post about goal 63: visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Park because there's really not much to say. It's a giant garden in the heart of the city. Very beautiful. Very open. Very weird that they charged us money to walk into a park...
We circled the park and decided wehad seen enough manicured foliage so we found our way to the station to meet Ben and his friend Justin.
Who are Ben and his friend Justin?
Well I had no idea who Justin was, and all I knew of Ben was that he had commented on Richard's status and mentioned he was coming to Tokyo. That was enough for me to message him and say we should hang out. I then discovered that he went to school in Los Angeles and was a film composer, so our mutual friends list was populated with random LAers and a few composers.
Justin, as it turns out, has lived here for 7 years by way of Los Angeles, though he's originally from St. Louis. He knew Ben through some music stuff and acted as a great tour guide for the day. He brought us to a fantastic Ramen restaurant and taught us the proper etiquette (FYI NEVER stick your chopsticks in anything to rest nor should you ever pass two things between chop sticks. Both acts are somehow offensive to the dead. How a dead person can be offended is beyond me).
Post Ramen, our impromptu tour guide brought us to Akihabara Electric City. So yes, we rocked down to AkihabaraElectric Avenue.
Besides being one of the nerdiest/seediest places of the city, Akihabara is also the best place to find electronics. If it was ever made and required electricity to run, you can find it in Akihabara. And for whatever reason, it's also home to a few hundred maid cafés. Those, for the readers who don't know, are exactly what they sound like: cafés where women dress like maids and serve you.
To give you an idea of how many maid cafés exist in one place, these were the characters we passed in one block. ONE.
|Dancing and inviting people from the second story|
And as if that wasn't weird enough, our journey down maid alley was in order to get to a 7 story sex shop. I will spare you a great deal of photos, as 7 stories of Japanese sex products nearly filled up my memory card (that is not a euphemism), but I will share a few gems:
|Justin & Mia in the elevator|
|Souvenirs for all my friends back home!|
|Well these are just sensible|
|You don't even want to know|
|All the lube had creative names. I like that this was just straight to the point. Masturbation Gel.|
|Was this where Obama got his slogan?|
|A sex doll. Of a child.|
|A new look I'm campaigning|
I ended up playing a symphony of vibrators as each one had a slightly different tone. It is currently an untitled piece, but I've got some ideas:
Adagio for Dildos
Rhapsody in Pink
Air on the G String (this one just doesn't even have to be changed)
Canon in V
To compliment the 7-story sex shop, we crossed the street and found an equally large video game store. I hope you're getting an idea of the types of people who live in Akihabara. We were much more at home looking through old SNES cartridges and Nintendo plushies. It has been a goal of my life (not just this adventure) to find any memorabilia of Birdo, but I'm starting to think that if this store in Akihabara didn't have anything than there might not be any merchandise for Nintendo's gender confused dinosaur bird. A boy can dream...
As the evening approached we all went our separate ways. What did I learn from my time spent with strangers from the internet? There is no better way to make quick friends than by spending an afternoon in a sex shop; bondage is sure to ensue...
|Ben exploring the vintage arcade game floor|
|I spot Birdo!|
|More Souvenirs for friends back home! The failed Dreamcast|
I went back to Shibuya and waited in the second story Starbucks that overlooks the famous Shibuya crossing. Aziz and I decided to meet for dinner in order to plan our trip to Okinawa at the end of the month. We found each other, as well as two friends of his from London, and then found our way to a café I've become quite fond of for a meal and some laughs.
When the smoke from the smoking section of the café started to drift into our lungs (apparently unaware that we were in the non-smoking section) we left to the basement of a karaoke complex where we found a whiskey and rock n roll bar. The premise is this: drink whiskey and request songs. The bar has an impressive collection of a few thousand records so anything you're likely to request can be spun. The three guys enjoyed their drinks while I sipped my water on the rocks and we enjoyed our requests, which included Frank Valli, David Bowie, The Eurythmics and The Beach Boys. And what do three young men discuss while enjoying alcohol in a dimly lit rock 'n roll bar? Our favorite musicals.